Danny Boyle died 23 years ago, but hundreds of families continue to harvest the rewards of the slain police officer’s public service and his ultimate sacrifice.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, the scholarship fund created in Boyle’s name will host its annual fundraising social at Heroes Hall inside the new headquarters of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.
Family, friends and former colleagues of Boyle, who at 21 was the youngest Philly cop ever killed in the line of duty, will gather over a meal and some adult beverages to celebrate his life and support his legacy of helping dedicated but less fortunate students at several Archdiocesan schools pay their tuitions.
Boyle’s parents, Pat and Nancy, founded the scholarship fund soon after their son’s passing. Now, a volunteer board keeps the program running smoothly. The fund has distributed more than a half-million dollars to students at Archbishop Ryan, St. Christopher’s in Somerton, St. Veronica’s in Hunting Park and St. Gabriel’s in Grays Ferry over the years.
“You wonder how do these kids have the energy to get out of bed and go to school every day,” Nancy Boyle said.
To apply for a scholarship, students must write an essay detailing the challenges that they face. Invariably, their stories are heartbreaking.
One boy’s dad died when he was 8. He and his mom moved into her parents’ home. The mom held two jobs to support them until the grandmother fell and broke her hip. The grandparents almost lost the house to foreclosure and are filing for bankruptcy.
One girl lost both her mother and father within 11 months when she and her sister were much younger. Now, they live with an aunt and uncle, who have two kids of their own and pay tuition for everyone, making many personal sacrifices.
Another scholarship recipient has overcome autism to become an excellent student, although he still finds simple tasks difficult, such as tying his shoes, and he finds it hard to make friends. Recently, his father lost his job, leaving the family with no income and big credit card debts.
Doctors diagnosed yet another student with leukemia when he was still in grade school. By the time he enrolled at Ryan, he was in the midst of chemotherapy and bone marrow treatments. As a freshman, he tripped and broke his ankle and missed three weeks of school. Yet, he finished the school year on the academic honors list.
“It’s heartwarming to read some of them because it makes it all worthwhile to know that we’re helping somebody,” Pat Boyle said. “You see the dire need and you know the families are committed to the education of the kids.”
The fund uses various methods to raise money. On May 5, it will host its 23rd golf outing at Northampton Valley Country Club in Richboro. The event draws 144 golfers each year.
“It’s been sold out every year since we began,” Pat Boyle said.
Corporations have been generous over the years, too, including Waste Management, Verizon and Universal Healthcare. According to Pat Boyle, businesses can earn tax benefits by donating through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program.
But next week’s social is perhaps the biggest single activity. The Boyles hope to attract about 500 people. This is the first year in the FOP hall. They used to hold it at Finnigan’s Wake in Northern Liberties.
“(FOP President) John McNesby has been a good friend to us for a long time and said, ‘You have to have it here,’ ” Pat Boyle said. “(Finnigan’s owner) Mike Driscoll, who’s on our board, said it belongs there, in Heroes Hall.”
This year, the social will have an element of frustration after a Common Pleas Court judge last month overturned the death sentence for Danny Boyle’s murderer. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina ruled that the killer could not be put to death because he is mentally disabled. The Boyles, the FOP and District Attorney Seth Williams aren’t buying it. Williams has said he will appeal the ruling. Shortly after the ruling, Sarmina left the criminal bench and accepted a civil court appointment.
“I’d rather not have the notoriety, but Sarmina put us in a situation now,” said Pat Boyle, who credited Williams along with assistant DAs Edward McCann, Robin Godfrey and Tracy Cavanaugh with fighting relentlessly on their behalf.
Meanwhile, Danny Boyle and his scholarship fund will continue fighting for disadvantaged students.
“We have kids in college, too,” Pat Boyle said. “There are three in college right now.”
The top academic performer each year among scholarship recipients at Ryan earns a $2,000 grant toward college tuition. Currently, students attend La Salle, Widener and Alvernia.
“The stories are very sad, a lot of them,” Nancy Boyle said. “It’s nice to be able to help people.”
“Hopefully, this will continue long after I’m gone,” Pat Boyle said.
Tickets to the Officer Daniel Boyle Scholarship Fund annual social cost $35 and are available by calling Pat at 215-964-3497 or Tom at 215-900-6379. Information about the fund is available at officerdanielboyle.com ••